It was raining when I arrived at the Berwick solar farm today, but I’d been to visit a friend nearby and wanted to make sure the bees were ok after Storms Eunice and Franklin. There wasn’t much flowering apart from some brave blackthorn blossoms, and I was not expecting to see the bees flying. There are mesh floors on the Thermosolar hives though and the boards beneath need to be kept clean as the bees can’t remove the debris themselves, and flies, slugs, and wax moth can take advantage of the lack of policing if the boards aren’t swept regularly. It is also a great way to check on the bees’ activity, as the deposits relate to the behaviour above, giving us a great insight in to the hive without having to disturb the colony at this tricky time of year.
The first hive (the original colony) was quiet, and the board underneath demonstrates that the bees are not that active:
The middle section is clear because the combs have built down to the bars over the mesh floor – this is to give more room underneath the frames. This colony hadn’t got that particular memo though and have welded their wax to the bars. There are a few mites but it’s mainly the normal winter presentation of frass (bee poo) and white sugar crystals.
The second hive had a bee flying out as I looked, and a couple of bodies on the entrance flap. Their board shows a far greater level of activity:
There are packs of pollen, and brood cappings where the bees have hatched out and the lid of their cell has fallen through the mesh. Gathering pollen is a great sign that the bees are provisioning the hive (it looks like hail pollen) and the brood caps means bees are hatching, indicating that the queen has started laying eggs again.
Once I had cleaned and replaced the boards, I left the bees and went for a wander across the wildlife area. A few of the slates had come off the habitat hotel so I replaced those, and saw a little mouse nest among the straw and vegetation. Ducks and geese flew overhead, and Blue and Great Tits were flitting among the shrubby hedgerow.
I will go back soon and give the bees a proper check once the weather cheers up.